Oh my! I got so busy in October that I forgot to blog about this. This first half of October was relatively quiet, other than I got my passport and readied myself for the journey to take place in the middle of the month. As I started writing this, I realized that there was a lot more to the end of October and the beginning of November. So, I’ll break this into 2 or 3 posts. Probably like it would have been done if I hadn’t not done them as they happened.
The middle of the month, that’s when everything began to happen. With a farewell to Mom and Dad, and friends from around Fennville, Grand Rapids, and Detroit, I was dropped off at the Kent County International Airport. I was bound for Denver. It seems to me that the day was partly sunny, but cleared up as I made the first leg of my journey to Chicago. As I flew across the south end of Lake Michigan, there was a lake freighter that was heading north, I think. I thought that this will be the last time I see a sight like this for at least a year. I was excited for the adventure.
The next leg to Denver was uneventful, as was my catching the Super Shuttle to the hotel near the company headquarters. I checked in and kicked back.
The next day, I caught the hotel shuttle to Antarctic Support Associates with a bunch of other “Polies” and people going to McMurdo. We all had to have our “in brief” and fill out more paper work. However, by the end of the day we were all on board a shuttle to DIA again for our flight to Los Angeles. Our trip to “The Ice” had begun. Somewhere along this line, I met some of my fellow winter-overs. The 3 hours to LAX was uneventful, and I think we had 2 hour lay over for food and stuff.
Boarding the 747 for Auckland, New Zealand was a surreal moment, reflecting on it now hundreds of people streaming onto the jet ramp looking for their door to enter the plane. At the boarding get they checked your boarding pass, and that you had your passport for the other end of the flight. It was just so much different pre-9/11. The flights in and out of airports were so much more relaxed, and if there was stress, it was self imposed because you did get to your gate in time. I do remember that it was getting dark in LA as we boarded the flight. The flight itself would be the longest that I would have ever flown. This flight was 13 hours. The previous long flight for me was 8 hours from Shannon, Ireland to Bangor, Maine on the way back from Desert Storm.
I found my way to my seat, and was seated a ways away from any Antarctic people that I knew. However, I spied a young woman boarding the plane, and as every young man wishes…yes, she was assigned the seat next to me. Her name was Dani, who was from Australia. I think at the time she was getting her doctorate in molecular biology. We had a good time chatting on the way down to Auckland. We kept in touch a bit during the year at the South Pole, but I’m not sure where she is at now.
13 hours later, we touched down in Auckland. With only a few hours of sleep, we waded through the lines at Customs. Following strange signs and such, I made it out of the international terminal and outside with my luggage. I found some other South Pole people and followed along as we made the trek to the domestic terminal for Ansett New Zealand. The flight south from
from Auckland to Christchurch was cloudy so not a lot to see, but there was one glimpse, as we were nearing Christchurch that seemed like we were flying down a mountain valley and the green of the grass with gray wispy clouds around us.
We touched down, and walked all of our belonging to the Antarctic Clothing Distribution Centre, or as we called it CDC. This is a center that outfits the personnel that are flying down to Antarctica, whether they be Kiwi, or American. It’s a joint venture between USAP and Antarctica New Zealand.
They checked us in and gave us our room assignments at the various bed & breakfasts, backpacker hotels and private hotels. I was assigned to The Devon Bed & Breakfast Guest House. A great place, however, as far as I can surmise was determined unsafe after the Christchurch earthquake of 2010. From Google maps satellite images, it look like it was torn down. Thus started the beginning of the journey south.
Start from the Beginning of this story.